Christmas Tree Picture Books Roundup

CHRISTMAS TREE PICTURE BOOKS ROUNDUP
By Christine Van Zandt

 

Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree
Written and illustrated by Lori Nichols
(Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, Ages 3-5)

What happens when it seems your sister is allergic to Christmas? Find out in Maple & Willow’s Christmas Tree, a thirty-two-page children’s picture book, the fourth in the series. What begins as the best Christmas ever—the first year sisters Maple and Willow are getting a real Christmas tree—soon becomes problematic when Maple starts sneezing.

To quell Maple’s symptoms, the tree is placed outside. Willow’s sharp words make Maple feel sad about ruining their Christmas. That night, Willow regrets her outburst and has an idea to mend the bad feelings between them. Her ingenious solution takes some hard work but she can’t wait until morning time and, instead, wakes up Maple to show her the big surprise.

Nichols’ slim text complements her whimsical artwork which captures the girls’ emotions well. The cheerful pencil drawings leave plenty of white space on the page, evoking a cold winter scene, a nice contrast to warmth of the sisters.

 

The Christmas Eve Tree
Written by Delia Huddy
Illustrated by Emily Sutton
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 5-8)

The Christmas Eve Tree begins in a forest of Christmas trees where one was planted carelessly, “so that when the wind blew strong it fell sideways onto its neighbor and had no chance to grow.” In this thirty-two-page children’s picture book, we find this little tree is about to get thrown out on Christmas Eve until a homeless boy asks if he can have it. Taking care to not snap its crooked branches, the boy plants the tree in a cardboard box. We share the tree’s thoughts, finding it goes from feeling pitiful to proud when recognizing that it belongs to someone.

In the boy’s homeless village, the tree’s boughs are decorated and an accordion plays a Christmas song to which they sing along. Soon the passersby stop to join in, creating a lively community. “The little fir tree felt it would burst with happiness, because clearly the boy had forgotten that tonight he would be sleeping in a cardboard box.”

Days later, the boy moves on, sadly leaving the mostly dead tree behind. The street sweeper notices some green shoots and, instead of discarding the tree, cleverly plants it in a corner of the park where it lives on, providing a gathering place for people and animals.

The book’s rich watercolor images by Sutton have an old-time feel; their saturated colors contrast with the ivory paper. While the fir straightens out and grows a thicker trunk, the concluding pictures show us that its branches are still sparse. Yet, it doesn’t matter because, in the end, everyone is happy—including the tree.

NOTE: “Delia Huddy worked as an editor in children’s publishing in a long career that included many happy years at Julia MacRae Books in London, after which she became editorial director at Random House UK. She was also an author of novels, picture books, and younger fiction. At the end of her life, in 2005, Delia Huddy was working on the text for The Christmas Eve Tree.”


The Great Spruce

Written by John Duvall
Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
(G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

The great spruce, Alec’s favorite climbing tree, captures the attention of some men who are passing through town. Astounded that his parents agree to let the tree be cut down for the city’s Christmas celebration, Alec places himself between it and the chainsaw, imploring that they borrow the tree instead. Soon everyone is digging.

A tugboat transports the tree to the city; Alec and his grandpa accompany their tree on this delightful voyage. In downtown, when Alec flips the switch to light the tree, a young girl declares it the most wonderful tree ever and asks if it can stay. Alec explains that the tree is just visiting then gives her a pinecone and instructions on how to plants the seeds.

The tree returns home to grow even taller. Later, when Alec climbed the tree and “looked hard enough through his telescope, he could just make out the tiny sapling that took root in the big city square.” Alec’s love of nature demonstrates how one person’s courage and creativity can directly impact the environment.

The Great Spruce is a forty-page children’s picture book enlivened with colorful images. Gibbon’s acrylic ink and colored pencil style works for both the serene country scenes as well as the busy cityscapes.

 

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales https://SCBWIKiteTales.wordpress.com/

Debbie Powell’s Walk This World at Christmastime

 

 

WALK THIS WORLD AT CHRISTMASTIME
Written by Big Picture Press
Illustrated by Debbie Powell
(Big Picture Press; $17.99, Ages 5-8)

 

 

Walk This World at Christmastime, a twenty-four-page picture book, is an interesting and unusual addition to your holiday books. Set up as an advent calendar, the relatively sturdy lift-the-flap windows numbering one through twenty-five reveal images and accompanying text. Each page has additional flaps for curious fingers to discover, bringing the total of interactive windows to more than seventy. The left-hand page contains a four-line loosely rhyming poem and the concluding line “Where am I?” Beautiful background illustrations and clues beneath the flaps help readers solve this question (the answer is provided on the right-hand page).

A younger child will enjoy the many tactile experiences and the colorful, abundant pictures. Older kids will gain a deeper understanding of how different cultures celebrate Christmas around the world, learning our similarities such as “Candles at Christmas are a symbol of the triumph of light over darkness.” New ways to celebrate will be discovered as well: “The Gävle goat is a giant Swedish Yule goat made from straw.” Diversity in religious practices are explained: “In Lalibela, Ethiopia, Christian pilgrims dressed in white robes flock to the beautiful rock churches.” Interspersed historical tidbits inform, for example, that the first advent calendar was made in Germany in 1851.

Many pages have fun food facts. “The Chinese give gifts of apples on Christmas Eve,” “Enjoy a Lebanese Christmas feat of kibbeh pie—made from minced meat and bulgur—along with tabbouleh and honey cake.”

Walk This World at Christmastime concludes with an easy-to-follow world map depicting the book’s journey. A dotted line connects the countries and continents, uniting our world through our holiday celebrations.

Read about illustrator Debbie Powell here.

  • Reviewed by Christine Van Zandt

Writer, editor, and owner of Write for Success www.Write-for-Success.com

@WFSediting, Christine@Write-for-Success.com

Co-editor of and writer for SCBWI’s Kite Tales https://SCBWIKiteTales.wordpress.com/

Great Christmas Books for Kids – A Holiday Roundup

Kids Christmas Books Roundup –
Reviewers Rita Zobayan and MaryAnne Locher
Share Some of This Season’s Kidlit Faves

Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish'Twas-Nochebuena-cvr.jpg written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Sara Palacios (Viking/Penguin, 2014; $16.99, Ages 3-7)

While Christmas is celebrated all around the world, different cultures have their own traditions and ways of celebrating. ‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish is a new spin on the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.

A Latino family is preparing to host relatives and friends on Christmas Eve. They are busy making tamales stuffed with pollo (chicken) and queso (cheese). When ready, they participate in posadas (the reenactment of the Nativity) where families stroll from house to house, asking for shelter. Once back home, the family drinks warm mugs of chocolaty champurrado (a thick hot chocolate drink) and play loteria (a game similar to bingo). Then, it’s time for Misa del Gallo (midnight mass) before the celebration continues with more food and a delicious dessert called bu~nuelos (a sweet fritter covered with cinnamon). It’s a wonderful night of family and festivities.

The artwork is bright and inviting. Little details, such as colorful banners and the town’s architecture, give a feel for the setting. I found the facial expressions, including that of the family cat and dog, to be especially engaging.

The rhyming text makes the book easy to read, even for non-Spanish speakers. With satisfied bellies and sleepy eyes, we head to the sala for one last surprise. Giggling and cheering, we dash for the tree, where regalos are waiting for you and for me! A glossary of 47 Spanish terms is included, as is an author’s note about the origin of this story.

With diverse literature in high demand, ‘Twas Nochebuena provides fun insight into a cultural celebration of Christmas Eve. Feliz Navidad! – Rita Zobayan

Link to review of Round is a Tortilla, also by Roseanne Greenfield Thong.

 

Maisys-Christmas-Tree-cvr.jpgIf you’re looking for a sweet board book to tuck in a special little person’s stocking this Christmas, Maisy’s Christmas Tree, (Candlewick Press, 2014; $6.99, Ages 2-5) is the perfect pick. Written by Lucy Cousins, the ever-popular Maisy is decorating her Christmas tree with her friends. Cyril the squirrel, Tallulah the chicken, and Charlie the crocodile are all helping out in their own special way, stringing lights, hanging candy canes, and wrapping presents. Eddie the elephant is in charge of the tree topper: an angel who looks exactly like Maisy!

Maisys-Christmas-Tree-int.jpg

Interior image from Maisy’s Christmas Tree by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick Press ©2014.

Bright primary and secondary colors with a bit of silver sparkle make this a visually appealing book. Its small size and Christmas tree shape make it easy for little hands to hold and help turn pages. Even a toddler full of Christmas anticipation will sit through this book of under fifty words which gently builds to a grand finale. Maisy and friends sing carols around her beautiful tree then shout, “Merry Christmas, everyone!” – MaryAnne Locher

Link to review of Peck, Peck, Peck, also by Lucy Cousins.

 

Everything-About-Christmas-cvr.jpgEverything I Need to Know about Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book written by Diane Muldrow (Golden Books, 2014; $9.99, Ages 4 and up)

Little Golden Books are endearing. I’m not sure if it’s the vintage-style art work or the sense of innocence that seems to emanate from the words and pictures of a bygone era, but there’s no denying the “aww” that goes along with the series. So, it’s no surprise that Everything I Need to Know About Christmas I Learned From a Little Golden Book by Diane Muldrow draws in both young and old. Compiled from the art of a variety of LGB, this is a guide to keeping your sanity during one of the happiest yet busiest times of the year.

“Christmas is coming!” waves a happy Santa. But, what about all that baking, the endless cycle of cooking and cleaning, and the rounds of social obligations…when you could be taking a nap. Then there’s the snarled holiday traffic…and the scary holiday crowds! The excess! The expense! Then comes the weight gain. Yes, Christmas certainly comes with stresses and obligations. It’s easy to get caught up in the commotion and consumerism. However, don’t spend all your time preparing…It’s a time for traditions, a time for giving the very best of yourself…a time to reach out to someone who’d otherwise be alone. For one night in a manger, under a star, a night witnessed by both shepherds and kings, when gifts were given to a waiting world…and the gift of hope for a peaceable kingdom.

While younger children might not understand the message about keeping the crazy out of Christmas, they will almost certainly enjoy the illustrations and message of love and family. Filled with LGB favorites, such as the Poky Little Puppy and Richard Scarry’s artwork (among many talented others), the book harkens to the wonder and nostalgia of childhood. This is something that LGB does so well. Adults are transported back to their childhoods (and perhaps will remember reading LGB as youngsters), and children will adore the sense of warmth that the illustrations create.

Everything I Need to Know about Christmas I Learned from a Little Golden Book is a new Christmas favorite in our household, and once you read it, you’ll see why. – Rita Zobayan

Link to review of We Planted a Tree, also by Diane Muldrow.

 

 

 

A PERFECT TREE FOR CHRISTMAS by Anne Gillespie Lewis

A PERFECT TREE FOR CHRISTMAS
by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg
(Nodin Press, $7.99, Ages 3-7)

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-cvr.jpg

During the countdown to Christmas, all the trees on the Christmas tree farm are anxious to be selected and go home with a special family. After all, the trees will play an important part in the Christmas celebrations. They stand a little taller, brush the snow off their branches, and wait to become A Perfect Tree for Christmas. But two trees in Anne Gillespie Lewis’ gently suspenseful story aren’t quite perfect. Though green and pointy-needled, one has a crooked top and the other’s tip is split in two.

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-int-spread.jpg

Interior artwork from A Perfect Tree for Christmas by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg, Nodin Press © 2014.

The farmer does his best to bolster the pair, giving them extra water and fertilizer. He even tries to straighten the crooked tree by binding it with a colorful scarf. But nothing works, and day after day passes while the trees are passed over by picky families. Still, the piney pair happily watch the children taking hayrides, making snowmen, and warming themselves at bonfires.

Readers will root for a happy ending to this tale, especially when the two tree buddies become separated. As the last tree’s teardrops become frozen crystals sparkling on its branches, a joyous Christmas seems nearly impossible. But do not despair, by the last page the perfect solution is found.

Illustrator Carina Stahlberg has done a superb job rendering these trees full of personality despite their static positions. Who knew trees could smile, grimace, and groan so effectively? She surrounds them with a plethora of adorable wildlife and quirkily cartoonish characters, filling the pages with amusing scenery. Squirrels on skis and dogs of all breeds are fun for young readers to spot in scene after scene.

Perfect-Tree-Christmas-int-spread.jpg

Interior artwork from A Perfect Tree for Christmas by Anne Gillespie Lewis with illustrations by Carina Stahlberg, Nodin Press © 2014.

A finalist in the 2014 Midwest Independent Publishers Association’s book awards, this sweet holiday picture book was inspired by author Anne Gillespie Lewis’ sympathy for a crooked tree she spotted in Brooklyn Center. She couldn’t shake its image from her mind, especially since she had been diagnosed with scoliosis as a girl. Thus A Perfect Tree for Christmas began to take shape, reminding us that no one has to be perfect to be loved.

– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey

Nodin Press books are distributed by Itasca Books. Click here if you’d like to *order a copy.

Where Obtained:  I reviewed a promotional copy of A Perfect Tree for Christmas and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.

*Disclosure: GRWR makes no commission from your purchases and only provides this info as a courtesy to readers since Nodin Press is a regional publisher.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas by Peter H. Reynolds

Christmas Gifts Come in All Shapes and Sizes.

Reviewer Rita Zobayan shares a book about rediscovering the magic of home.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas, (Candlewick Press, 2013; $14.00, Ages 4 and up), written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds.

Cover art for The Smallest Gift of Christmas

The Smallest Gift of Christmas written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, Candlewick Press, 2013.

Roland is eagerly awaiting Christmas and the presents that the holiday brings. What he doesn’t count on is getting a small gift, and not just a small gift, but “the smallest gift he had ever seen.” Well, this simply won’t do and Roland wishes up some Christmas magic for a bigger gift. He gets it, but he still isn’t satisfied! “Roland stomped off, sure there was a bigger gift for him—somewhere.” So Roland sets off to search the universe for his perfect gift. Will he find the BIG present he thinks he deserves? Maybe, but not in the way Roland imagined.

Presented in a cartoon-style illustration from award-winning author/illustrator Reynolds, with a simple but bold color palette highlighting red and green, the images are perfect for the story. The font, which Reynolds hand-lettered, is kid friendly and eye-catching.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas is a gentle and humorous reminder that material gifts, while fun and exciting and sometimes big, pale in comparison to the true gifts of family and love.

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson

Peter Rabbit’s Back for Christmas Thanks to Emma Thompson

cover art of The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor, Frederick Warne, 2013.

The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Emma Thompson with illustrations by Eleanor Taylor (Frederick Warne & Co., $20, Ages 3-5) arrives just in time for Christmas and is reviewed by MaryAnne Locher.

Mr. and Mrs McGregor, Peter Rabbit, and Benjamin Bunny appear again in this story inspired by the original tales of Beatrix Potter, but this time a new character, William, appears.

After spoiling their mothers’ attempts at holiday baking, both Benjamin and Peter are sent on errands. They run into their friend, William, a turkey who is foolish enough to believe the special food and treatment he receives from the McGregors is due to his importance. Peter, having lost his father to one of Mrs. McGregor’s pies, and being the good friend he is, decides he must warn William that he is being fattened up for the McGregor’s Christmas dinner. William blanches at the thought, but the three friends, come up with a brilliant idea that leaves the old couple eating nothing but boiled potatoes and winter cabbage on Christmas day. The Rabbit family enjoys a delicious Christmas feast and Mrs. Rabbit even bakes a special barley-cake for William, whose feathers are still too puffed up to fit in the burrow.

I almost forgot I wasn’t reading Miss Potter’s words or enjoying her illustrations, this book was so exquisitely done. Eleanor Taylor’s sprinkling of woodland animals and barnyard critters in all the right places with just the right colors, provides not only beautiful pictures, but an opportunity for story building. This book is certain to ensure a Merry Christmas for all who read it!

If you’re an Emma Thompson fan, click here to read our previous review of her first Peter Rabbit picture book, The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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